Monday, May 11, 2015

What is Mercy?


 
“Mercy is the ability to see through and beyond that which appears, to that which is eternal and never changes.”
~ Michele Longo O’Donnell

According to the dictionary mercy is a form of compassion or forgiveness shown towards someone whom it is within one's power to punish or harm.

In her book “The God That We’ve Created” Michele Longo says that mercy is not compassion; compassion is compassion; mercy is not forgiveness; forgiveness is forgiveness.  She builds her insight on the words of James:

“For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.”
~ James 2:13

She says that mercy is from a higher atmosphere of thought.  Mercy excels over judgement.  It is more desired than judgement.  Mercy is the judgement of God.  God sees all his creation, especially his children, with mercy.  When mercy touches our hearts … we are changed forever.  We see ourselves as new creatures, we can change our lives and can even be healed.

Because God sees us as we truly are: our core true, innocent nature, we are governed by his love and truth.  Traditional teachings tell us that God judges us according to our sins.  That would make us fear God because judgement is governed by fear.  Michele suggests that we are governed by mercy with love and truth.

 

Monday, May 4, 2015

Lift Your Face toward the Sun

During this past Sunday Service pastor Mike used the phrase: “Lift your face toward the sun rather than looking down to the ground.”  This is not to get a nice sun tan or to appear arrogant.  He used it to encourage us to have a positive attitude and to be optimistic.  He also referred to Matthew 5:44-45:

“But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”

Jesus here talked about how God being unbiased, sends the sun and the rain on all of us equally.  We don’t have to qualify with our behavior.  I found some other quotes which support this understanding.  Why not get the sun when it is so abundantly available?

“Keep your face to the sun and you will never see the shadows.”
~ Helen Keller

“For the LORD God is a sun and shield: the LORD will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.”
~ Psalm 84:11

“Turn your face toward the sun and the shadows will fall behind you.”
~ Maori Proverb

 May the road rise to meet you.
 May the wind be always at your back.
 May the sun shine warm upon your face.
 And rains fall soft upon your fields.
 And until we meet again,
 May God hold you in the hollow of His hand… .

Turn your face to the sun.
There is goodness in the world that even the river of tears cannot erase.
~ Maithri Goonetilleke 

May experience many moments this week where you can turn your face to the sun both literally and symbolically.  May you always be aware of the choices we have: look up or look down.

Monday, April 27, 2015

The Lion and the Mouse Fable

A lion lay asleep in the forest, his great head resting on his paws.  A timid little mouse came upon him unexpectedly, and in her fright and haste to get away, ran across the lion's nose.  Woken from his nap, the lion laid his huge paw angrily on the tiny creature to kill her.

"Spare me!" begged the poor mouse. "Please let me go and someday I will surely repay you."

The lion was so amused at the idea of the little mouse being able to help the King of Beasts that he lifted up his paw and let her go.

Some weeks later, the lion was caught in a net.  The hunters, who desired to carry the lion alive to their King, tied him to a tree while they went in search of a wagon to carry him.

Just then the little mouse happened to pass by, and seeing the lion's sad plight, went up to him and soon gnawed away the ropes of the net, freeing the lion.

"You have helped me and now I have returned the favor.  Was I not right - even a mouse can help a lion!" said the little mouse.

The Moral of the story: No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.
 



This story has been told in many variations.  It is part of a collection called the Aesop Fables.  The morals of the story are timeless and can be enjoyed by children as well as adults.  Because the characters are represented by animals, we cannot be offended by the message. 
 
As the great English writer G. K. Chesterton pointed out:
“They have no choice, they cannot be anything but themselves.”

Monday, February 23, 2015

Cast Down Your Bucket Where You Are


The only thing I knew about Booker T. Washington was that he found many ways of using peanuts.  In the process of my research I learned that he wasn’t the farmer after all rather than a teacher and educator who became a leader of the newly emancipated African-Americans after being liberated from slavery.  George Washington Carver who was a student of his school in Tuskegee, Alabama was the one who experimented with growing better yields of peanuts, sweet potatoes and pecans. 

I was very much moved when I read Booker Washington’s biography Up From Slavery.  I was mostly impressed by his humble and grateful attitude regarding his upbringing.  He never blamed anybody for his circumstances or was resentful for his life.  Even after being freed his family was very poor and had little to eat.  Even young children had to work from morning till night in the salt mine, coal mine or the mill.  But because of his determination to make something of himself he found a way to learn, adopt and even go to school.  His desire to learn was so strong that he eventually was accepted at the Hampton School in Virginia.  He was so motivated to learn that he started out with night classes at Hampton’s.  He spend the whole day working for a white family doing basic homemaking chores.  Because he wanted to do a good job, he excelled in all his doings which not only gave him the confidence of his employer but also helped him eventually to work at the school in the same way, while going to classes.  He became an exemplary student and showed many of the new pupils who to learn physical skill while also absorbing the book knowledge. 

“I have learned that success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome while trying to succeed.”
~ Booker T. Washington (1856-1905), Up From Slavery: An Autobiography

In time, his supervisor, General Samuel C. Armstrong choose Booker to open a new school in Tuskegee, Alabama to further the education of the children of the freed slaves in the south.  In all his doing Prof. Washington encouraged the students to apply their physical skills.  In fact, the whole curriculum of the school was designed in that the students worked half a day and the other half was for studying and recreation.  Dr. Washington saw the Tuskegee school as his life’s work.  He invested himself completely and won the support not only of his own people but also the influential white folks.  He traveled all over and presenting his work with the students at Tuskegee resulted in the financial support of many of the former slave holders as well the generosity of northern businesses.  During that time he became a well-spoken public orator which gained him even greater funding.  His address known as the Atlanta Compromise Speech in 1895 brought him more fame and requests for presentations and appearances to benefit the cause of the black people.

“Those who are happiest are those who do the most for others.”

After some 18 years of total dedication to the education of black population of the south, some of his supporters decided that he needed a break.  Some of his northern benefactors got together to plan a trip to Europe.  Mr. Washington in his humility didn’t want to accept at first the expenses for the fare across the Atlantic.  None-the-less, he benefitted greatly, not only from the rest and relaxation the voyage provided for him and his wife, but also from the many new contacts he made while overseas.

“Character, not circumstance, makes the person.”

He often reflected on how far he had come ‘up from slavery’ meeting with presidents, royalties and high society.  He always went back to his own roots deeply planted in his faith in the greatest benefactor, God.  His involvement was never political rather, he proposed education and raising the standard of living for his own people.

To say the least, I was very moved reading the accounts of Dr. Booker T. Washington’s experiences following his way with strong determination, hard work and deep faith.  His motto never changed: cast down your bucket where you are.  This is a great lesson for all of us, be grateful for what you have and where you are, but follow a greater vision with passion and persistence. 

 

Monday, February 9, 2015

Where is Common Sense Today?


Common sense means different things to different people.  It seems that in many ways what was right before is now wrong, and what was wrong is now right. 

According to Wiki ‘common sense’ is the basic ability to perceive, understand and judge things by most people.  We all know that in our diversified society that very rarely brings us to a mutual result.  So, what is really our collective denominator?  I believe that the only way that we can find a shared ‘sense’ is that we take God’s point of view. 

“In my opinion, if we have not achieved peace, it is because people forget its most fundamental aspect. Before we talk about peace among nations, we must settle our peace with God.”
~ Sun Myung Moon (1920-2012), Korean Spiritual Leader
 
Without getting into a religious discussion, we can all agree that we were born as men and women.  We all have a mind which allows us to think, feel and make decisions and a body through which we fulfill that which the mind directs us to do.

 
Abraham Maslow (1908-1970) was an American psychologist who put together a hierarchy of needs which describes the human needs in priority and ultimately culminates in self-actualization.  He suggested to focus on the positive qualities in people rather than treating them as ‘bag of symptoms.’

"The cause of America is in a great measure the cause of all mankind.
 We have it in our power to begin the world over again."
 ~ Thomas Paine, Common Sense, 1776

When I was looking for more common sense connections I came across a site which refers to a pamphlet written by Thomas Paine (1737-1809) called: Common Sense.  The content of this document became the inspiration for the people of the 13 colonies to declare independence in 1776. 

Most people have maybe never heard of this document.  It spread like wildfire through the colonies and became the argument for freedom from the British rule.  Thomas Paine published the work at first anonymously because he wanted it to be focused on the content and the ideas rather than make a name for himself.  He wrote the article in a style which was understood by the common people.

Today is Thomas Paine’s birthday according to some accounts.  February 9th is recorded in the ‘new style’ birth records.

"A body of men, holding themselves accountable to nobody, ought not to be trusted by anybody."
~ Thomas Paine

That brings me back to my suggesting to use a common denominator in the picture.  Unless we find our shared roots mankind can never find the solutions we are so desperately looking for.  Let us be accountable to the one God who created us all and who is waiting eagerly for us to have ‘common sense.’


Monday, February 2, 2015

The Bible Is A Coded Message


You may have wondered why there are so many different interpretation to the Holy Scriptures.  In 1974, Rev. SunMyung Moon gave a message which helped me to understand some of the coded messages in the Bible:

What is the Bible, more precisely? The Bible has been a book of mystery. However, the Bible contains God's message to you and me.

The Bible does not use plain language, but is written in symbols and parables. Do you know why God has presented the Bible in symbols and parables? Why did He not speak the truth clearly?

God has had to deal with the world of evil. Throughout the ages, God has hand-picked His workers, or champions, out of this evil world. Abraham was such a champion. Noah was such a champion.

And God's champions were always in the utter minority in the evil world. If God revealed His strategy too openly or plainly, the enemy would use that information against God's champions. Thus, the Bible was written as a coded message, so that only God's agents or champions could decipher it.

Let me make an analogy. To protect her security, America sends out many agents overseas to collect vital information concerning potential enemies. When the home headquarters is communicating with these agents overseas, particularly in enemy territory, would they communicate openly and plainly? No. No one would be that naive. They would communicate in coded messages — secret messages — so that the enemy could not decipher them.

Throughout history, righteous people have faced nothing but suffering on this earth, simply because they were in enemy territory, and Satan did not want to have God's agents prosper. Whenever Satan's forces discovered God's representatives, they tried to destroy them.

We must realize that God has had to give His instructions in coded messages. Thus the Bible is written in symbols and parables. In a sense, the Bible is intended to be mysterious. Then how can we know the true meaning of those symbols and parables?

It is simple, in a way. If you are an agent dispatched by your headquarters, and you want to decipher a coded message, then you must either have a code book, or communicate directly with your home headquarters.

By the same token, the meaning of the symbols and parables in the Bible can only be clear when we communicate with our "home headquarters" — God. This is truly the only sure way we can know the ultimate meaning of the Bible.

Two thousand years ago our Lord Jesus Christ brought the blueprint for the Kingdom of Heaven on earth. However, he could not speak plainly about his plan even to his own disciples. Jesus spoke in figures and parables. Why?

Jesus knew the adverse circumstances in which he had to work. There was political pressure from the Roman Empire. There was the ruling monarchy, who opposed any change. And there was a strong religious system and tradition. These could all be directed against the building of the Kingdom of God.

Jesus came to kindle the fire of revolution in people, which would in due course change the structure and the life of the entire nation. But he could not speak plainly of any of this even to his own disciples. Instead, he had to speak in figures and parables, saying,

'He who has ears to hear, let him hear.'
~ Luke 14:35

If you attempt to interpret the Bible literally, word for word, letter for letter, without understanding the nature of the coded message of the Bible, you are liable to make a big mistake.

Therefore, in this day, at this hour, what the Christian world needs is a revelation from God. God must reveal to us His plan; He must tell us His timetable, and give us instructions as to what to do at this time. God indeed promised that by saying, in Amos,

'Surely the Lord God does nothing, without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets.'
~ Amos 3:7

Tonight I am standing here at Madison Square Garden not according to my own will, but in obedience to the divine will of God. God has called me as His instrument, to reveal His message for His present day dispensation, so that there may be a people prepared for the day of the Lord.

Tonight I am going to concentrate on the divine revelation concerning the coming of the Lord of the Second Advent — the vital issue of the Second Advent — the most important question of our time. And in order to understand this more clearly, we must first know the circumstances of the coming of Jesus Christ 2,000 years ago.

Excerpted from The New Future of Christianity, September 18, 1974--Rev. Sun Myung Moon--New York, New York

Even the Jewish people believe that the Scriptures cannot be completely understood until the Messiah comes.  When he comes, he will not only interpret each of the passages for us, but will interpret every word and especially the meaning of the spaces between the letters.

“Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.
For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.”
~ Matthew 5:17-18:

We are living now in a special time of human history.  May we have the right spirit to understand the messages in the Bible and even be willing to look for deeper meanings through our living relationship with God.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Honor another Peace-Maker: Martin Luther King


In an earlier blog I wrote about peace makers. 

Since today is a national holiday, where we celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday, it is appropriate to write about his contribution to peace making.  Here is the link to his Nobel Peace acceptance speech: The Nobel Peace Prize 1964.
We all have heard about Dr. King’s famous “I have a dream” speech and are touched by his determination to fight for that dream.  Dr. King’s greatest contribution to peacemaking is portraited in the recent release movie: Selma.   In Selma we witness a chronicle of Martin Luther King's campaign to secure equal voting rights via an epic march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama in 1965.

As the story goes, from January to March of 1965 Dr. King along with hundreds and thousands of fellow African-Americans as well as some white folks from the northern states participated in marches between Selma and Montgomery, the capital of Alabama.  Even though the demonstrations were peaceful several protesters were injured and some even died.  Their demands?  The equal rights of American citizens to vote.  Finally, in August, President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act.

I like to finish my tribute to Dr. King with a quote by the late Rev. Sun Myung Moon who considered MLK “The Greatest American Citizen of the 20th Century.”

“On the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, we recall Martin Luther King’s stirring ‘I Have A Dream’ speech which captivated and inspired all of us to put an end to racial injustice and bigotry. We have before us the responsibility of fulfilling that dream. Whether the coming future will bring war or peace depends largely upon our efforts today.”
~ Reverend Sun Myung Moon